A-League clubs and the FFA have been embroiled in an ugly fight for the A-League for over two years. It’s been hard fought, and petty.
Sadly, the league has suffered as a result, with too much time being taken to discuss the politics rather than what’s happening on the field, where the standard is as good as it’s been in years.
But while the clubs are good at criticising the FFA, what have they actually contributed since this bitter feud began?
They actively opposed one of the biggest, and most overdue stories – expansion. They opposed the ‘Asian plus one’ rule, which many see as the future for securing bigger audiences and interest amidst a flatlining Foxtel product.
They openly criticised most aspects of the league at a time when positive PR was needed. They support the Wellington Phoenix, who (despite this season) have been a drag for years and give nothing to Australian football.
Expansion licenses sold for a reported $15 million each in November. Melbourne Victory openly boast at being valued at $40m. Is the league so broken?
That would mean that club licenses 15 years ago sold for next to nothing, and are now worth $15 million.
With Victory – and possibly others – worth that amount, the league licenses could be worth a collective $200m. Clubs say they’ve lost $250m but that includes Clive Palmer and Nathan Tinkler’s (among others) lost ‘treasure’ – so let’s call it break-even after tax deductions.
The point is, they’ve been good at blaming others – the FFA, the marketing, the expansion approach and the FFA’s approach to the Phoenix – but fail to talk about how much their assets have increased in value, or how they would improve the league.
Western Sydney Wanderers have never said, “sorry, we stuffed up our stadium strategy and that has really hurt the league by going to ANZ”. Sydney FC have showed what a different strategy can achieve.
So then, what changes if they get their independence? What is their strategy? What would they do differently? Saying “FFA is crap” is not a strategy.
Their blueprint says that they would extend benches from five to seven (Recommendation 8) and recognise FIFA windows (Recommendation 9) – although they just agreed to backtrack on that one – and would introduce loans and transfers (Recommendation 10).
This is not much of a strategy – how will extending benches, loans and windows improve broadcast ratings?
I’m not into supporting the FFA much, but I hope they stick to their guns and get the best outcome for ‘football’, not for the hip pockets of rich owners.
If the clubs have a strategy that is better than the one that has grown value for football, then let’s all share in the upside.
If they don’t, then why isn’t a professional partner brought in like many other leagues have – the English Premier League partner with IMG; Major League Soccer partner with Soccer United Marketing; DAZN with the J-League; Lagadere with AFC.
Why isn’t this being contemplated?
Quality marketing (tick). Access to marquee players (tick). Ability to negotiate commercial deals (tick). Knowledge of the changing media market (tick). Management of sports businesses (tick).
Surely these types of groups that would be better than either the FFA or the clubs?
And then, after that’s done, let’s get back to talking about getting marquee players like Fernando Torres into the league and improving the quality on the field.